Mechanical engineering students named NSF Graduate Research Fellows

April 13, 2020

Two PhD candidates studying mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University have earned prestigious fellowship awards through the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

This program recognizes outstanding graduate student researchers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, providing the awardees with three years of financial support.

The oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the program received more than 13,000 applications from students at the nation’s top universities this cycle. Of those applications, the NSF awarded fewer than 2,100 fellowships this time around.

Chosen for their high potential for future academic and professional success, those recognized from Johns Hopkins Mechanical Engineering are:




Juan Sebastian Rubio (Sebastian) is a first-year PhD student working in the Fluid Transport Lab, under the guidance of Rui Ni, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

He performs experiments to understand multiphase flows subjected to high-speed, strong turbulence, and large mass loading. His aim is to develop an ultra-high-speed diagnostic system that can probe into this research area, which can have significant impact in both engineering and science applications, including the formation for stars, supersonic combustion, and risk mitigation strategies for supersonic jet-plume surface interactions (Moon or Mars lander), and others.

Rubio’s previous research experiences in experimental fluid mechanics include undergraduate research at the Shock Tube and Advanced Mixing Laboratory at Georgia Tech, and graduate research with the P-23 Extreme Fluids Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Rubio is a first-generation Hispanic student who immigrated from Colombia to the U.S. at the age of 12. He hopes to continue to inspire other students with similar backgrounds to pursue their dreams despite life’s challenges.



Quinn Mitchell is a first-year PhD student in the lab of Tamer Zaki,  associate professor of mechanical engineering.

His research interests are in a range of complex flows involving dynamics that defy intuition. From the non-Newtonian behavior that complicates visco-elastic and elasto-visco-plastic flows to the non-equilibrium effects present in high-speed flows, there is ample motivation for the development of novel analytical and computational tools.

Mitchell is currently developing new numerical simulation techniques, high-performance computing algorithms and uncertainty analysis tools for turbulence in these challenging regimes.





Michael Wilkinson is a first-year PhD student in the LIMBS Laboratory, directed by Noah Cowan, professor of mechanical engineering. His research is focused on on the application of robotics for medical purposes, specifically neural studies of animals for insight into neurodegenerative disorders. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 2019 with a degree in electrical engineering.


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